Sunday, April 14, 2013

Here, There, and the Alsace

As you know from the previous post, my sister Kristin and her husband Richie were able to come to visit us again for almost two weeks.  We had a wonderful first week with a trip to a castle, Cologne, and Bruges.  We drove home from Bruges via Luxembourg on Good Friday.

After such a busy trip, we took it easy on Saturday of week two.  It was cold and dreary, so it was a good day to relax!  We made a trip to the grocery store to buy the food we would need for our Easter brunch and dinner, and it was a complete mad house!  The stores in Germany were closed on Good Friday, so everyone had to get their shopping in on Saturday.  We found what we needed, and got the heck out of there!  Later that day, we went to the nearby Meilen Werk, which you might remember from when Kyle's family was visiting.  It's kind of a classic car museum/salesroom/garage for rich people.  There are a lot of really cool cars on display from old classics, to new and top of the line models.  We browsed the collection, picking out our dream cars (Richie was more interested in a BMW tractor).  We also stopped in at their brewery for a beer and pretzels.  (Of course they have a brewery; how could they not??)  That evening, despite the cold, we enjoyed dinner on the grill of bratwurst, grilled veggies, and potato salad.

Is this for sale?  I'll take two, please. 
We celebrated a traditional Easter on Sunday.  We went to church and then had a delicious brunch of sausage, German breakfast potatoes, fruit, and mimosas.  What we didn't expect was to see snow on the ground when we woke up!  It was definitely whiter and colder on Easter than it was on Christmas!  We spent the rest of the day relaxing, chatting, and cooking.  For dinner, Kristin and I made a new German recipe called rinderrouladen.  It's very thinly sliced and pounded beef that you stuff, roll, and braise.  We served the rinderrouladen with twice-baked potatoes, spargel (white asparagus, a big deal here) and rolls from the bakery.  It was very good, and the new recipe was a keeper!

There's a story behind our Easter dessert.  My family, for as long as I can remember, always has cake that is shaped like a lamb for dessert on Easter.  I was excited to find out that lamb cake is also a traditional German Easter dessert.  I found and bought a cake mold from the store.  On Saturday, Kristin and I attempted making the cake.  We had a German cake mix, and we did our best to decipher and follow the directions.  We put the cake mix into the mold, and after a minute or two into baking it, we had cake all over the bottom of the oven.  Luckily I had put a piece of foil on the bottom!  We were able to salvage some of the cake mix and make it into cupcakes.  I guess my lamb cake making skills need some tweaking.  But hey, we tried!  Even though there was no lamb cake, it was still wonderful to be with family on Easter!

On Monday we headed out for a quick overnight trip.  We were heading to Strasbourg, France in the northern part of the Alsace wine growing region.  It was a pretty, short drive through the Black Forest and just across the Rhine River is the gorgeous Alsace region.  We started off with a lunch of savory crepes and riesling at a nice outdoor cafe.  We walked around the city and saw the beautiful and impressive Notre Dame cathedral.  (Not THE Notre Dame, but still pretty awesome!)  We walked along the river to a very picturesque area called Petite France.  The Alsace region traded hands a lot between the French and the Germans, so it's a wonderful mix of the two cultures, evident in the food and the architecture.  Petite France definitely shows the German influence with it's quaint half-timbered houses.  We also came upon a very cute Easter market that had vendors selling cheese, jams, cured meats, and hand made gifts.  There were also some really cute farm animals!

Baby goat on his mama goat's back!
After a few hours in Strasbourg, we headed south on the wine road. I am in love with the wine road!  It twists and turns through vineyards and little Disney-esque medieval towns.  The hills of the Black Forest can be seen in the distance on one side as you drive along the foothills of the Vosges on the other side.  Castles and castle-ruins are strategically placed along the hills.  As you drive along the wine road, there are countless tasting rooms for you to go in and try the delightful wines.  The Alsace region is especially known for dry Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Muscat, and Pinot Noir.

Free tasting?  Don't mind if I do!
We sampled and purchased a little bit of wine before we reached Ribeauville where we were staying the night.  It was late afternoon, so we still had plenty of sunshine to walk around and enjoy the beautiful little town.  We did wine tastings at a few different places before all of the shops started to close up.  Once the shops were closed and all of the day trippers left around sunset, it felt like we had the town to ourselves.  It was so quiet and peaceful!  We went to a wonderful restaurant for dinner. Kyle and I shared warm goat cheese on a toasted baguette for a starter.  Kristin and Kyle both had quiche Lorraine, which they said was the best that they've ever had.  I had a traditional Alsatian dish of gratin potatoes with smoked ham and cheese.  Richie had beef wrapped in noodles in a creamy sauce.  For dessert Kyle and I split Crème brûlée and Kristin had ginger ice cream in the shape of a pretzel, dipped in chocolate with raspberry sauce.  Dinner was wonderful to the very last bite/drop!

Richie's pic; view from their room

The next day after a breakfast of bread, jam, croissants, and coffee, we continued south on the wine road to the charming little town of Riquewihr.  It has to be one of the cutest towns I've ever seen.  We were there in the morning before it got busy, and you could smell fresh bread and coconut macarons being freshly baked.  The old medieval houses were painted in pastel colors with flowers and Easter decorations in the window boxes.  It was just like a fairy tale village!

From there we headed to the beautiful city of Colmar.  It's a small city with a similar German/French feel of Strasbourg.  It has beautiful canals and nice open market places.  We walked the most scenic parts of town and had lunch before heading home through the Black Forest.  

Spring and Easter market in Colmar with cheerful decorations
Gizmo was not fond of the farm animals.  He wouldn't even look at them after his initial sniff.
Kyle had to work the next day so Kristin, Richie and I took it easy and stayed local.  We went to climb Rubble Hill, or the Birkenkopf (mentioned in previous posts).  It's the highest point in Stuttgart, made out of piled up rubble from WWII.  From there we had a delicious traditional German lunch and then headed to the TV tower.  It's a very tall tower just outside of the city where you can take an elevator to the top for great views.  Too bad the elevator was broken!  Well, I think the elevator was broken.  That's kind of what we gathered from the conversation with a non-English speaker.  We headed for the Ritter Sport cafe instead where we had divine chocolate coffee and cappuccinos.  (I stole these Rubble Hill pics from Richie.)

The next day Kyle had to work again, so the three of us took a little day trip to the Bodensee, as the Germans call it, otherwise known as Lake Constance.  It was an easy 1 hour 45 minute drive down the autobahn to the beautiful lake on the German/Swiss border.  We went to the town of Constance first where we wandered around, saw the sights and walked across the Swiss border.  It seemed like the guards barely even noticed us crossing!  It was pretty grey and cloudy when we first arrived, but as the day went on the sun came out and made a huge difference!  We took the car ferry across the lake to beautiful medieval town of Meersburg.  We walked the narrow hilly streets and had a nice coffee by the lake.  It even got warm enough for me to take off my winter coat!  What a novel idea in the spring!

Proof that we were in Switzerland
On the ferry with the sun coming out

Kristin and Richie headed home on Friday where they were attending a rehearsal dinner that evening, and Richie was part of the wedding party on Saturday.  Hopefully they were coherent enough to do the "YMCA" at the reception!  

We had a wonderful time with Kristin and Richie and we're so glad that they were able to come all the way over here again.  We're definitely looking forward to our visitors coming out this summer and fall!  We love hosting and sharing our fun times with fun people!  

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